Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 February 2020

Coronavirus: UAE universities issue advisory to staff and students

Higher education institutions ask students not to attend classes if they feel sick and have recently visited China

Ben Bailey, director of campus operations at the University of Birmingham in Dubai, has advised students to seek medical attention if they feel sick. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Ben Bailey, director of campus operations at the University of Birmingham in Dubai, has advised students to seek medical attention if they feel sick. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Universities in the UAE advised students and staff to be cautious and seek medical help should they develop a cough or fever, especially after travelling.

Some higher education institutions asked students not to attend classes if they felt sick and recently visited China.

Five cases of coronavirus have been reported in the UAE so far.

"We’ve advised students to attend classes as usual but they should immediately seek medical attention if they feel unwell,” said Ben Bailey, director of campus operations at the University of Birmingham in Dubai.

"This is in line with the recommendations made by authorities in the country. We’ve made advice available to staff and students in the UK and Dubai.

"We’ve flagged the recommendations made by the Dubai Health Authority and advise anyone who has returned from Wuhan or Hubei province to isolate themselves and inform the authorities."

Sessions are being held to educate students and staff, and they can contact the university’s well-being team in Dubai.

Prof Christopher Abraham, head of campus at SP Jain School of Global Management in Dubai, said it had about 20 students from China.

Universities need to provide emotional support to students and pupils. Just think of teenagers who need to be quarantined at home.

Dr Nosa Aihie

"We had a short holiday of two weeks in December and January, so the students did not go home for Christmas," Prof Abraham said.

The institution has held regular awareness sessions on precautions against coronavirus.

"We’ve provided masks to staff members and students and increased the number of sanitisers on the campus," Prof Abraham said.

If a student has a cough, flu or fever, the college immediately sends them to see a doctor.

"There are about 500 students," Prof Abraham said. "We’re trying our best to keep the campus infection-free.

"We've sensitised our teachers to be aware. Since the virus is highly contagious, students can be shy to say if they are down with a cold.

Yesterday, a government circular was issued to schools in the UAE, advising pupils and staff to stay home for 14 days if they or any of their family members travelled to China in the past two weeks.

Dr Nosa Aihie, regional director at medical and travel security services company International SOS, said universities should ensure sick students stayed off campus and received psychological support.

"If you’re sick, you should isolate yourself," Dr Aihie said. "If you’re unwell it’s important to alert the authorities as soon as possible.

"Besides taking general precautions, psychological support is very important. Universities need to provide emotional support to students.

"Just think of teenagers who need to be quarantined at home. That can be challenging.”

In such cases, students should be given the option to study remotely, Dr Aihie said.

People should also be educated on how to wear surgical masks properly.

"They should change their masks every day," Dr Aihie said. "It’s the flu season."

Awareness and education are very important and authorities in the UAE is doing well on both fronts, he said.

Updated: February 6, 2020 04:01 PM

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